I had to head down to Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC) initially for work as we (Les Amis Group) recently opened 2 new outlets – Sorae and San Fu Lou, middle-upper tier Japanese and Cantonese restaurant concepts respectively.
However, the openings were postponed to a week later so it became an 80% leisure 20% business trip.
When we first exited the airport, my boss arranged our (2 colleagues & I) limo pickup to the lovely New World Saigon Hotel. I must say, the ride was pretty impressive!
It’s one of the best hotels in Ho Chi Minh so if you’re not the backpacker sort with minimal expectations and low budget, I’d highly recommend this place!
It was about $200+ SGD a night for a room with 2 single + 1 extra bed.
En route to our first pitstop…
We walked across many quaint parks with several locals playing badminton, singing, playing instruments etc.
A must-go place for tourists. It was around SGD$5 for a full day entry. The museum consists of 4 storeys and an outdoor section at the back!
A lot of people missed the outdoor section which is a huge pity because it’s the highlight – so don’t forget if you’re heading there.
However, the silliest thing is that the museum closes for lunch (they’ll shoo everyone out) so do plan where to head to during then.
The outdoor section was most engaging (or traumatizing, to some). It was built to replicate the prison – including the cells.
These were used as one of the many gruesomely torturing methods. Up to 3 prisoners had to squeeze into these spiked cages.
After our eye-opening trip to the war museum, we met some Singapore Tourism Board friends based in Vietnam at Com Tam Moc.
Com Tam is a popular Vietnamese broken rice dish. These grains of rice that are broken in the mills were considered a lower grade in the past, and were mostly eaten by peasants.
However, they’ve since gained popularity with its unique couscous-like texture that soaks up more flavor.
Adorable chihuahua-bulldog hybrid! We walked past this place after lunch and they were trying to squeeze through the tiny gap just to greet us.
Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa *MUST TRY*
Some time later, we hopped over to Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa – a MUST-GO place for banh mi!
Located at: 26 Lê Thị Riêng, Bến Thành, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Contact: +84 8 3925 0885
Vietnam’s localized version of “Starbucks” – Phuc Long. Try their Oolong milk tea!
Our boss joined us on day 2, and he brought us for breakfast at the family-run eatery Nam Loi, famous for their hủ tiếu cá (fish noodle soup).
I recommend the fish noodle soup with wide rice noodles (aka kway teow), with bánh pâté chaud (pork pastries) served alongside them.
However, Nam Loi caters more towards the middle-income group so it’s a little more pricey.
Also, a warning to those who visit this shop: it’s staffed by the grumpiest family in the country.
Manicure/Pedicure at Fame Nails. I highly recommend this place in Ho Chi Minh!
Located at: 18 Phạm Hồng Thái, Bến Thành, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Contact: +84 8 3824 5818
This is where many people I know buy good quality inspired running shoes for $30-40ish SGD.
I don’t have the exact address. All I know is that you must walk through Bến Thành Market, out the back, and cross the road (walk straight). It’s just a few meters away.
SquareOne, Park Hyatt Hotel
My boss (Raymond) then decided to bring us to try the more exquisite tastes of HCMC at SquareOne, Park Hyatt Hotel.
One of our old chefs at Les Amis Group is now the head chef here so we got to meet him. Amazing food.
We had a quick stopover at L’Usine for coffee – a retail space, cafe and gallery all in one.
This charming “Urban Outfitters-esque” cafe with that hint of indie-industrial chic tumblr vibe is perched on the second storey while the retail space spreads out on the first storey. You have to enter the store and walk up the stairs to get here.
I could already picture blogshop owners and vsco-grammers flocking here if there was one in Singapore.
Thankfully, it wasn’t just an overplayed concept with bad product – coffee here was a real eye-opener! They serve good, strong, Viet coffee here. However, skip the cheesecake please.
Only a short walk from most of the city’s iconic sites like the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Saigon Opera House, L’Usine is a quiet oasis. Although it’s on the shopping street of Dong Khoi it’s hard to find to the untrained eye.
Locaed at: 151 Đồng Khởi, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
As mentioned above, skip the cheesecake, go for coffee!
We then hopped over to 137 for a quick massage. It was okay, just a little dodgy so if you’re female, please request for a masseuse at the counter, unless you’re into clean-looking males (suspected gay too) caressing you. Nuff said.
AB Tower: Chill Skybar & 27 Grill
We plonked on our hotel beds for a rest before freshening up & meeting collagues/business partners at the AB tower right next door. Had dinner at 27 Girll + partied a bit at Chill Skybar.
With my colleague Ziqi & Elly, a model/personality in HCMC.
The night ended at 3am, but we decided not to club hop.
The next morning, we ate at my favourite street noodle shop in HCMC. I will update this space with the address once I get it.
It was the best I tried during my stay, and cheaper too, as it caters to the working crowd.
Their “kitchen” is a pushcart! How quaint!
I reached Changi airport at approx 6pm, rushed home to grab my luggage, and headed back to check in at 8pm.En route to: Charles de Gaulle airport.